Can one man with limited resources accomplish remarkable things in global education? Takeshi Utsumi, Ph.D., P.E., is a passionately dedicated former Fulbright Scholar who has for some decades devoted himself to experimenting with and demonstrating the technology that can bring needed learning, health care and perhaps peace to everyone on our planet. He is a founder and 'Vice-president for Technology and Coordination' of the 'Global University System' and is co-editor of a new book about that project, Global Peace Through The Global University System that has been published at the University of Tampere, in Finland.
It includes essays by a former president of Finland; by the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs; by a member of the European Union Commission responsible for education; by the former heads of UNESCO and ITU; by the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union; by the Director-General of the International Labor Organization; by the vice-chancellor of the British Open University which serves a couple of hundred thousand students all over the world; by Marco Antonio Dias of Brazil, former Director of UNESCO's Division of Higher Education and who now is 'Vice-president for Administration' of the Global University System; by Joseph Pelton, former spokesman of INTELSAT and a leading expert on the use of satellites; and by many other such experts on several continents.
Because of his conviction that the spread of education was essential for ultimate global peace, Takeshi Utsumi, beginning as an individual, began building an e-mail network from the 'bottom-up' of people who shared the dream and that began to join him in experiments and demonstrations of possibilities for using information technologies to bring affordable essential learning to those parts of the developing world that have been difficult to reach. So I interviewed him to ask how the project is progressing.
Rossman: I understand that your wife, Hisae, has been a supportive partner who has traveled with you in recent years as you were invited to speak at conferences around the world that have gradually led to the beginnings of a 'Global University System.' In my opinion it may be one of the most important things happening at the turn of the 21st century.
Utsumi: Marco Antonio Dias of UNESCO has encouraged me to 'think big' about global-scale education 'with a human face.'
Rossman: Think how big?
Utsumi: I see several models as precedents: The Russian and American outer space projects and the vast Human Gehome Project in Biology, for example, have shown the effectiveness of projects where large numbers of people and organizations have collaborated. Why, we asked, should there not be a similarly large project for global electronic distance education and global healthcare via the Internet? The possibilities of telemedicine have already been demonstrated successfully. The encouragement and support of Dias made possible the August 1999 conference at the University of Tampere in Finland that officially established the Global University System (GUS) project. That meeting was made possible by the supports from the World Bank, National Science Foundation, UNESCO, the International Telecommunications Union and other influential organizations, such as Soros Foundation, British Council, etc., to name but a few. The report of that meeting can be read online at .
Rossman: I understand that GUS affiliated projects now exist on all five continents, but that money is your main problem if essential learning is provided for everyone on the planet.
Utsumi: Well, the main obstacles are political and cultural. But yes, adequate funding would make possible the creating and distributing of essential technology to every poor developing world rural and urban slum community. The technology exists and will improve and become more affordable with mass production. At the organizational meeting we proposed a 'Global Service Trust Fund,' hoping that governments, corporations and foundations might support the project. However, corporations are first concerned about their stockholders and government budgets are tight. So I have been exploring and pushing possibilities with Japan.
Rossman: Because you are Japanese and have influential connections there?"
Utsumi: No, because at that time Japan's Official Development Assistance fund (ODA) had the most to give, more than the USA's. However, that...